Les Pâtes Vivantes (Paris 9)

Les Pâtes Vivantes is one of a few places in the Richer / Montmartre neighbourhood in the 9th district that makes their own noodles on-site and within full view of passers by.

This particular restaurant has had good reviews in various magazines, and as it turns out, deservedly so. Although I have to say that if I hadn’t read any articles about it I wouldn’t have bothered as it looks completely crappy inside and out, and forces you to assume that they serve up the same mediocre, monosodium glutemate-fuelled fare found in many similar looking places in Paris.

I got the traditional noodle dish with crispy duck, which was amazing, and washed it down with a Tsingtao beer because I was feeling reckless (that’s about as reckless as it gets nowadays).

A total of 16 euros for both, and that delicious feeling of not needing to eat for another month thanks to a ridiculously generous portion of noodles.

Le Petit Marcel restaurant (Paris 4)

I loved this place. Admittedly, it’s partly down to the fact that I was looking to escape the office one lunchtime and it ended up being a haven of peace and tranquillity for an hour. But also thanks to the skilled and funny waiters, the very fresh food, and the lovely terrace with very few cars.

I had the salade di buffala followed by an expresso. Nothing very original or exciting about that, but the mozzarella and salad leaves were really good quality and the dressing homemade (disappointingly rare in standard bistros). And I spent my time watching the waiters skillfully chat up the customers, including calling the female ones ‘chérie’ which I’m always a sucker for.

I’ll be going back there. Either to escape work for a bit as I did that time or at some point to have a half price mojito during their happy hour.

Bento at Tokki

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Salmon bento at Tokki cannot be beaten. The restaurant is at 10 Rue de la Boule Rouge (Paris 9), just round the corner from my flat. So I go there several times a month for my salmon fix which I always take away in a bento tray like the one above. Highly recommend the place.

 

Bachaumont restaurant (Paris 2)

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A few weeks ago I was looking for a place near work to take a friend who’s into good food. I work near Bourse so it’s not too difficult, and happened upon Bachaumont on the Le Fooding website, pretty much always my first point of call if I’m looking for somewhere new to eat. Plus it was backed up by a really good review by Gilles Pudlowski (in French).

Bachaumont the restaurant is attached to the eponymous hotel in the 2nd arrondissement. It’s on rue Bachaumont (it must have taken them ages to think that up) which is just off rue Montmartre, in a part of town I love because it’s really central, has lots of good shops and bars, and is partly pedestrianised.

The restaurant reminds me a lot of Panache – sophisticated, spotless decor combined with hipster staff and neo-bistro menu. This was a better culinary experience though compared with Panache as the menu seemed more original and just better executed.

My dining partner and I had exactly the same meal. The starter was cromesquis with a parmesan tuile on a bed of very fresh green beans with rock salt. I’d never heard of cromesquis either, although this article (in French) gives the impression that I’m literally the last person on earth to have not eaten them. It’s a kind of potato croquette made in this case with cheese and ham. Not bad, particularly on the green beans.

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Then the main course was seared tuna steak with braised vegetables. The tuna was  perfectly cooked, and very far from the stuff you get in average bistros.

Bachaumont seared tuna

And lastly the starter was one of the best tarte tatin I’ve ever eaten (and I’ve eaten loads!). Very refined and somehow light despite probably containing my body weight in butter.

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The only thing I’d say about the restaurant is that the à la carte menu was pretty limited. The 3 courses I’ve mentioned were the set menu of the day, so if you have specific dietary requirements (or are just plain faddy) you may be slightly frustrated by the lack of alternative options. Personally I had no regrets with my choice though!

 

Dosanko Larmen restaurant (Paris 2)

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This is a bit of an institution in the Asian quarter in between Opera and the Louvre. It’s a great place, full of Japanese people (I’m sure that’s a good thing! See Big in Japan), serving inexpensive food in generous portions. Not entirely sure when the last health and safety check took place, but let’s not focus on that.

They specialise in ramen, big bowls of clear broth with noodles, veg and often meat. I had larmen shironeri with white miso sauce (fermented soya). Not entirely sure what the name means exactly but it was basically a standard ramen with a giant piece of smoked pork in it. You could really taste the pork in the broth too. Delicious.

I had a “large” because I was starving when I got in there. It was a definitive case of eyes-bigger-than-stomach (my Mum’s classic saying when we were kids) because I was served what felt like about 2 litres of soup and was incapable of finishing it.

In addition to the food you get to watch the cooks do their stuff in front of you which is always cool.

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One thing I would avoid doing is going there on a first date though. For one you stink to high heaven of pork fat when you get out. And unless you have mastered the swirl-in-spoon technique (I haven’t), your date risks catching you with a bunch of greasy noodles hanging out of your mouth at some stage during the dinner.

I’m married and went there alone so all good there.

Panache, a “new-style bistrot”

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This one received the comment “half my bloody plate is empty!”

Panache is what Le Fooding restaurant and hotel guide describes as a “néo bistrot”, roughly translated as a new-style bistrot. Neo bistrots often have tasteful, modern decor, and present traditional French cuisine in an innovative way (in some cases with a gastronomic twist). Which you could be forgiven for thinking it sounds quite exciting.

In my case however, it has come to mean that my husband, who admittedly knows his stuff when it comes to food, will have a rant at key points during the meal: on receiving the menu, at discovering that they only have organic wine, and on being forced to eat kale.

His general positioning on neo bistrot cooking is that it just sprung out of nowhere and doesn’t really add anything to traditional bistrot meals. This is worth debating and will be the subject of a subsequent post!

In any case, whatever ones view of neo bistrots, Panache definitely falls into this category. And as a quick sum up, it was a good dining experience.

The food was great (more on that in a bit), the decor is modern and tasteful, and the tables are a decent size and well spaced. Which avoids the necessity of getting intimately acquainted with your neighbours’ elbows, as is so often the case here.

The staff were also friendly, although I had the following conversation when I made the booking:
Me: Hi, I’d like to book a table for 2 at 1.30pm tomorrow please. Will that be possible? (Apparently I said the latter in a higher pitch)
Panache bloke: Well you said “will that be possible?” in such a cutesy voice that I’ll see what I can do.
The cheek of it. It made me laugh at the time though. And apparently the technique works because I got the booking.

Back to the food. We had two different starters. My husband chose beef back steak (or “onglet de boeuf”), shiitake mushrooms and kale, and I had what they called velouté of corn with a what they called “a perfect egg”.

The beef (see pic above) was ok but the kale didn’t impress (it provoked a neo-bistrot-moment), and everything about the velouté and the egg were delicious:

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We had the same main course – chicken with pear and “heliantis” (the only translation I can find of this is the root of the pale-leaved sunflower) – all of which was truly lovely.

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Followed by one dessert which was Parisian flan with a mandarin sauce, again very nice:

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In summary, would I recommend Panache? Yes, definitely, because the food was great. However is it fundamentally different to any of the other neo bistrots that were fashionable for a time (L’Office, Vivant Cave, etc.)? No, not really.

Still worth a visit if you’re in the 9th district sometime soon though.

Pottoka, a great Basque restaurant

A friend and I went to Pottoka a few weeks ago, and had a fantastic meal.
I don’t usually go to places where the chef is well-known. Mainly because there are enough completely anonymous and highly talented people here running their own restaurants that being well-known always seems slightly redundant.

But Pottoka had been recommended by a friend of the family who just genuinely likes good food. He’d happened upon its chef Sébastien Gravé in a previous restaurant, and naturally taken an interest when Gravé then opened Pottoka in 2011.

The place itself is tiny, probably about 25 covers. We had a mid-week booking and even by phoning a few days beforehand we only managed to get seats at the bar. I was convinced this was going to be hideously uncomfortable, and I do hate that (see previous Vivant Cave post), but actually it turned out fine.

And the food was great. Our two main courses were veal sweetbreads with truffle (lovely) and barbecued beef off the bone (which also got the thumbs up). We had the same dessert – Gâteau Basque, a layered cake with a custard filling, served with ice cream.

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Veal sweetbreads & truffle

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Gâteau Basque

Interestingly there were quite a few foreigners in there, so I presume it’s made its way into the guide books. The staff has obviously been briefed to ‘deal with’ non-French speaking clientele, and they do so like Parisians in an independent restaurant i.e. begrudgingly. When a Japanese guy next to us made a valiant attempt at requesting the bill in French, he received a forced smile from the head waitress which screamed “I’ve been told to be polite but in reality I hate you because your French is rubbish”. Ah, Paris.

Aside from the not-hugely-friendly service this place is well worth a visit – universally delicious food, reasonable prices, and a nice, relaxed atmosphere. The location is also great if you have time for a look around – 4 Rue de l’Exposition in the 7th district.